AusLink was an Australian Government land transport funding program, established in June 2004 and administered by the Department of Transport and Regional Services. In 2009 it was replaced with the Nation Building Program under the Nation Building Program (National Land Transport) Act 2009http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/consol_act/nbplta2009476/index.html#s4. The Nation Building Program is administered by the Department of Infrastructure and Transport.
AusLink was first proposed in a Green Paper (see Green Paper), issued in November 2002. In response 550 submissions were lodged by State and Local Governments, Industry, Environment Groups, Tertiary Education and Research Groups, Bicycle Groups and interested members of the public. In May 2004 the Australian Government issued a White Paper (see White Paper), setting out the policy to be adopted by the Government in response.
The White Paper states that AusLink is based on better long-term planning, encouragement of the best ideas and solutions and targeting investment to achieve the best outcomes for people, the national economy, regions and communities and that it has the following core components:
- a defined National Network (superseding the former National Highway system) of important road and rail infrastructure links and their intermodal connections;
- the National Land Transport Plan which outlines the Government's approach to improving and integrating the National Network and the investments it will make;
- a single funding regime, under a new AusLink programme, for the National Network
- separately earmarked funding for local and regional transport improvements;
- new legislative, intergovernmental and institutional mechanisms.
AusLink was administered under the AusLink (National Land Transport) Act 2005, until the 2005 legislation was superseded by the Infrastructure Australia Act 2008http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/num_act/iaa2008293/, the Nation Building and Jobs Plan (State Infrastructure Delivery) Act 2009http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/nsw/consol_act/nbajpida2009586/, the Nation-building Funds Act 2008http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/consol_act/nfa2008217/ and the Nation Building Program (National Land Transport) Act 2009http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/consol_act/nbplta2009476/index.html#s4.
This new 2009 law affects Auslink because it includes in detail:
- A "stimulus package";
- Integrated transport modelling;
- A nation building agenda and;
- A framework dealing with the funding (such as funding grants for local Councils)
Australian Government land transport funding is focused on the National Network, which includes rail and road corridors, connecting at one or both ends to State Capital Cities:
- Sydney - Melbourne, road (Hume Highway) and rail
- Sydney - Brisbane, road (Pacific Highway route and New England and Cunningham Highways route) and rail (North Coast railway line)
- Sydney - Adelaide, road (Sturt Highway) and rail (via Cootamundra, Parkes, Broken Hill and Crystal Brook)
- Melbourne - Adelaide, road (Western and Dukes Highways) and rail (via Geelong)
- Melbourne - Brisbane, road (Goulburn Valley, Newell, Gore and Warrego Highways)
- Adelaide - Perth, road (Princes, Eyre, Coolgardie-Esperance and Great Eastern Highways) and rail (Trans-Australian Railway)
- Perth - Darwin, road (Great Northern Highway and Victoria Highways)
- Adelaide - Darwin, road (Stuart Highway) and rail (Port Augusta-Darwin)
- Brisbane - Darwin, road (Warrego, Landsborough and Barkly Highways)
- Brisbane - Cairns, road (Bruce Highway)
- Brisbane - Townsville, rail
- Townsville - Mount Isa, road (Flinders Highway) and rail
- Melbourne - Sale, road (Princes Highway)
- Perth - Bunbury, road (South Western Highway)
- Hobart - Burnie, including link to Bell Bay, Tasmania, road (Midland, Bass and East Tamar Highway) and rail
- Melbourne - Mildura, road (Calder Highway) and rail (via Geelong)
- Sydney - Dubbo, road (Great Western and Mitchell Highways) and rail (via Bathurst and Parkes
- Canberra connectors to the Hume Highway (Federal and Barton Highways), road only
- Sydney - Wollongong, road (Southern Freeway and Princes Highway) and rail
- Melbourne - Geelong, road (Princes Highway) and rail
- some urban road and rail links in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide, connecting the long distance links to each other and to ports and airports
- Hunter Valley rail links (Dubbo to Merrygoen, Werris Creek Muswellbrook and Port of Newcastle and Merrygoen to Muswellbrook via Ulan)
The White Paper announced funding of $12,708 million for road and rail projects in the first five years of AusLink, 2004-05 to 2008-09 (Australian financial years run from 1 July to 30 June). In the 2007-08 Federal Budget, it was announced $22,290 million would be spent on Auslink II from 2009-10 to 2013-14.
Major projects underway or being planned (project search and Information on the funding projects in the states and territories)
Sydney - Melbourne (Hume Highway)
- Hume Highway; Holbrook bypass ($320m: $110m contribution by NSW) - Construction started in May 2011 with completion due in early 2013.
Sydney - Brisbane Pacific Highway route
- Bulahdelah bypass ($315m: $11m contribution by NSW) - Construction recommenced in 2010 following a delay in construction following what was found to be an incorrect claim that the roadway would damage a rare Orchard plantation, with completion expected by mid-2012.
- Kempsey bypass ($618m) - Construction began in 2010 with completion by mid 2014.
- Sapphire to Woolgoolga upgrade ($700m: $88m contribution by NSW) - 25 km upgrade north of Coffs Harbour, construction commenced in 2010 with completion in 2014.
- Ballina bypass ($640m: $114 contribution by NSW) - Construction commenced in 2008, with completion expected by mid-2012.
Banora Point upgrade ($360m: $60m contribution by NSW) - Construction commenced in 2009, with completion expected by mid-2012.
Sydney - Brisbane (New England and Cunningham Highways route)
- Hunter Expressway ($1.7bn: $200m contribution by NSW). Construction commenced in 2010, with the project expected to be completed by the end of 2013.
Sydney - Adelaide (Sturt Highway)
Melbourne - Adelaide (Western and Dukes Highways)
- Melton to Bacchus Marsh Freeway ($450m). Construction commenced in 2010 with the project expected to be completed by early-2012 
Melbourne - Brisbane (Goulburn Valley, Newell, Gore and Warrego Highways)
Adelaide - Perth (Princes, Eyre, Coolgardie-Esperance and Great Eastern Highways)
Perth - Darwin (Great Northern Highway and Victoria Highways)
Adelaide - Darwin (Stuart Highway)
Brisbane - Darwin (Warrego, Landsborough and Barkly Highways)
- Toowoomba bypass ($43m) - Planning commenced in 2008.
Brisbane - Cairns (Bruce Highway)
Townsville - Mount Isa (Flinders Highway)
Melbourne - Sale (Princes Highway)
- Duplication between Traralgon to Sale ($450m: joint funding) - Planning commenced in 2006.
Perth - Bunbury (South Western Highway)
Hobart - Burnie, including link to Bell Bay (Midland and the East Tamar Highway)
- Brighton Bypass (funding not yet finalised) The bypassing of several small towns north of Hobart on the Midland Highway
Melbourne - Mildura (Calder Highway)
Sydney - Dubbo (Great Western and Mitchell Highways)
- Woodford to Wentworth Falls (to provide four-lane conditions from Katoomba to Sydney).
Canberra connectors (From the Hume Highway to the Federal or the Barton Highway)
- Planning for duplication of the Barton Highway and the Murrumbateman Bypass ($20m) 
Sydney - Wollongong (Southern Freeway and Princes Highway)
Melbourne - Geelong (Princes Highway)
Rail funding has been announced for the following projects (Auslink project search):
- $550 million from AusLink and additional Australian Rail Track Corporation funds for an upgrade the 684 km of AusLink Network track and signalling along the North-South rail corridor from Maitland to Brisbane to reduce transit times substantially and to permit more trains to operate safely on the largely single track line.
- $192 million through the Australian Rail Track Corporation for a new access route for freight trains through the south-western Sydney metropolitan area from Macarthur to Chullora, the Southern Sydney Freight Line project.
- $110 million on the Rail Corporation New South Wales metropolitan track system towards improving rail access for freight trains between Strathfield and Hornsby. Some of these funds will be available during the later part of the current five-year AusLink investment programme, for the development of the Port Botany rail link.
- $110 million to the Government of Victoria for a new rail link and grade separation from Footscray Road between the Dynon intermodal freight precinct and the Port of Melbourne.
- $45 million to convert the broad gauge line between Geelong and Mildura and between Melbourne and Albury to standard gauge.
- $42 million to the Australian Rail Track Corporation to extend the Code Division Multiple Access mobile phone system to cover the interstate rail network. This will achieve a single national media for voice and data communications for the non-metropolitan interstate rail system. This is being provided through Telstra and will later need to be converted to 3GSM when Telstra replaces its CDMA network with 3GSM.
- $40 million to the Australian Rail Track Corporation towards the cost of the line upgrading and signalling system between Tottenham and West Footscray.
- $20.3 million to the Australian Rail Track Corporation to develop Australia's next generation of train control technology, including the capacity for computerised on-board signalling to replace the current track-side system, satellite-based location technology to track trains to within 3 metres, and a computerised warning system that alerts drivers to impending dangers.
- $20 million towards a Wodonga rail bypass to remove the Melbourne-Sydney line running through the centre of Wodonga.
- $8 million for crossing loop extensions at Jamestown and Mingary between Crystal Brook, South Australia and Broken Hill, New South Wales at Yarrabandia and Matakana between Broken Hill and Parkes.
- Up to $5 million from for a major study of the North-South rail corridor between Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. The study will examine future freight demand, capacity and options for development of the North-South rail corridor. It will form part of the broader AusLink corridor study of transport links between Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.
- $4 million for new passing loops at Mungala and Haig on the Trans-Australian Railway.
- $3.5 million for the upgrade and strengthening of the Albury Murray River rail bridge.
- $2.6 million for the installation of an In-Cab Activated Points System to avoid the need for train crew to manually change switches (railroad switches).
- $2.5 million for the upgrading and strengthening of the Murray River Bridge at Murray Bridge, South Australia.
With the large budgets allocated to transport projects, AusLink is promoted in highlighting government spending on infrastructure.
However organisations such as the Australian Automobile Association are outspoken in their criticism that the spending equates to less than 15% of the excise the federal government collects on petrol, is spent on road related projects.
There was also criticism of the program from some quarters claiming that it was nothing more than a pork barrelling exercise by the government.
- One Nation (Infrastructure)